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$17.2 billion – the environmental cost of the BP Deepwater Horizon spill

The first-ever comprehensive appraisal of the financial impact on natural resources impacted by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill found that it did $17.2 billion in damage. Photo courtesy of US Coast Guard
The first-ever comprehensive appraisal of the financial impact on natural resources impacted by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill found that it did $17.2 billion in damage. Photo courtesy of US Coast Guard

The 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill did $17.2 billion (EUR 15.8 billion) in damage to natural resources in the Gulf of Mexico, according to research published in the journal Science. The six year study is the first financial assessment of the damage to natural resources caused by the 134 million gallon (609 million litre) spill, the largest in US history.

"This is proof that our natural resources have an immense monetary value to citizens of the United States who visit the Gulf and to those who simply care that this valuable resource is not damaged," said Kevin Boyle, a professor of agricultural and applied economics in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Science and one of the authors of the study, in a press release.

The scientists behind the new study created a survey to see how much Americans would be willing to pay for measures that would prevent similar damage occurring to beaches, marshes, animals, fish and coral in the future. From this data the team calculated a monetary value for the resources damaged by the Deepwater Horizon spill. The research, carried out by a team of 18 scientists, was commissioned by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration a month after the disaster happened.

"The results were eye-opening in that we could tell how much people really value marine resources and ecosystems," said Boyle. "And even more meaningful because we did additional analysis that proved the legitimacy of oft-criticised values for environmental resources."

A large, random sample of US adults were surveyed to get the study's results, a first round in the form of face to face interviews, a second round over the mail.

"Our estimate can guide policy makers and the oil industry in determining not only how much should be spent on restoration efforts for the Deepwater spill, but also how much should be invested to protect against damages that could result from future oil spills," Boyle explained. "People value our natural resources, so it's worth taking major actions to prevent future catastrophes and correct past mistakes."

The first-ever comprehensive appraisal of the financial impact on natural resources impacted by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill found that it did $17.2 billion in damage. Photo courtesy of US Coast Guard